Pohjoista Voimaa – Leija

Pohjoista Voimaa – Leija

  • Agency: DARWIN
  • Production Company: KLAFFI TUOTANNOT
  • Aerial Shots: HELICAM, CINEPIC
  • Sound: ESA NISSI
  • Post Production: TROLL VFX
  • Color Grading: JAMES POST

The team at Troll created the eighteen or so effect shots for Oulun Energia and their promotional short, all of them involving inserting a kite into aerial plates. Simple, well briefed and fun job, though the number of shots was fairly high for the amount of time we had.

As usual, I began the project by conforming the edit in Hiero while Erkko Huhtamäki proceeded to model the kite itself. Tracking was done by myself and Vesa Jokinen in what can only be called a record time so Mikko Monto could get started on animation as soon as possible. While the animation progressed, I took over shading, lighting and dynamics work, preparing the scenes for rendering. After the initial pipeline setups were done, it was fairly easy to churn out iterations for review.

Roughly half of the comps were done by me, the rest were by Vesa Jokinen. Molla Karjaluoto once again handled the management of the production at Troll.

The movement of the kite’s sail against the wind was done with Maya’s excellent nCloth, which I used to create a couple of different animated blendshapes. Mikko Monto then adjusted the strength and timing of the blendshapes on a shot by shot basis.


While most of the tracking work done in SynthEyes was fairly easy, there were a couple of shots that required a bit of juggling to get it right. This was one of them, when there simply wasn’t much to track when the camera moved over the flickering ocean. Manual tuning of the animation curves in Maya was required, but luckily such aerial shots are fairly forgiving with tracking errors since you have no fixed point to worry about.


The lighting setup for each shot was simple enough: V-Ray Sun combined with a fitting HDR-background and possibly some bounce and shadow cards. No need for anything fancier.


Fun fact: The basic surface texture for the sail was taken from a real kite that we had at the office. Way better than trying to create the whole thing from scratch.


While the movement of the sail was done with baked blendshapes, the tail had to be simulated individually for each shot. This took quite a while, since directing simulations is always an educated guess at best and I had to do quite a few iterations. The simulation was done with a simple proxy geometry that was then used to drive the animation of the actual tail.


A challenge for shading and compositing came from the fact that the sail is actually fairly translucent. Anything bright would shine right through it and finding a nice balance was a tricky on some shots. I also used LightWave to create some procedural texture patterns that approximated the look of the sail’s fabric when you looked at it from the right angle.


The one thing I always find a bit difficult is finding the balance between making the CG elements look like they were shot in camera and looking good from an artistic point of view. If you’d shoot an aerial shot like this and had a real kite fly that close to the camera, the kite would be a blurry mess due to depth of field. We couldn’t have that though, so finetuning the amount of blur was a key issue on most shots.


Gotta say though, the plates we worked with were quite pretty indeed. It’s always a pleasure to work with footage that looks good to begin with.